Science fiction writer J.G. Ballard has died, at the age of 78. The news took me by surprise when I read the Boston Globe this morning. But what stunned me more was that someone could write an obituary of the man and not even mention that he wrote science fiction, much less that he was a highly influential writer in the New Wave movement of the 1960s.
I discovered Ballard as a teenager, with the short stories gathered into collections such as The Voices of Time and Vermilion Sands, and then the apocalyptic novels The Drowned World and The Crystal World. Ballard’s voice, darkly psychological, was a startling departure from any science fiction I had ever read before. I still have the paperbacks:
At the time, I knew nothing about the New Wave movement, I just knew I had discovered a writer who tapped into something in my own psyche—and I wanted more. Unfortunately, his work that followed, such as Crash, left me feeling cold and alienated, rather than engaged, and I regretfully moved on. But those earlier stories left a mark on me, one that I think probably influenced my own writing in subtle ways, and perhaps more than the work of any other single writer shifted my interests toward the psychological in SF.
J.G. Ballard: best known for Empire of the Sun, maybe—but one of the science fiction greats.